Disability Groups Weary as DSP Appeals Skyrocket
Friday, 22nd February 2019 at 5:37 pm
Disability advocates are deeply concerned by an almost 80 per cent increase in Disability Support Pension appeals, warning that vulnerable people are being incorrectly forced onto lower benefit payments.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal officials revealed during Senate estimates this week that from July to December 2018, there had been 2,672 appeals lodged related to the DSP – a 77 per cent increase compared to the same period the previous year.
Senators heard there had been a 75 per cent increase in appeals relating to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as well as a 41 per cent increase in Newstart appeals and a 34 per cent increase in Youth Allowance appeals.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said this spike in appeals was due to successive governments making it harder and harder for people to access social security payments such as the DSP.
“Given the on-line compliance program, the punitive approach to jobseekers and the demonisation of people on DSP, I’m not surprised there has been an increase in appeals,” Siewert said.
“The overhaul of the DSP eligibility criteria and new assessment process has meant that there is greater difficulty in accessing this payment.”
It is deeply concerning that disabled people and those without work have to fight tooth and nail, simply to be able to access a payment. Unfortunately the AAT has been unable to provide data on how many of the appeals relate to #robodebt #SenateEstimates
— Rachel Siewert (@SenatorSiewert) February 19, 2019
Tougher eligibility requirements introduced by the Gillard government in 2012 has led to a sharp decline in people accessing the DSP, with new DSP participants falling from a peak of almost 89,000 in 2009-10 to around 32,000 in 2016-17.
It was also disclosed during estimates this week that of the 104,000 DSP claims made in 2017-18, about 73,000 were unsuccessful – a rejection rate of 70 per cent.
Disability advocates have raised concerns that people with disability are being incorrectly forced onto lower benefit payments like Newstart.
A single person on Newstart receives $550 a fortnight compared with $916 a fortnight for a single person on the DSP.
MW: how many applications for DSP?
DSS: 104,000 in FY 2017-18.
MW: How many unsuccessful
DSS: 73,000 in FY 2017-18 [JFC]
[Sorry, missed the figures for other years, but similar rate] #estimates
— El Gibbs (@bluntshovels) February 20, 2019
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) CEO Ross Joyce told Pro Bono News he had been worried for some time about what was happening with access to the DSP.
He said recent AFDO-commissioned research from Melbourne University showed the majority of AAT appeals ended with the applicant being awarded the DSP.
“That’s quite disturbing because that just means there has to be something wrong downstream regarding the whole application process,” Joyce said.
“We’re concerned about the changes made over the last few years and think it’s restricting people that are eligible for the DSP’s access to the payment.”
Joyce said there needed to be a more open and transparent application process.
“We want a reinstatement of some guidelines for medical practitioners, who need to provide relevant evidence. We want that rather than the current process, which requires the person with disability to seek and find their own medical evidence and present that as part of the process.”
He also called for a review of AAT processes to find out why so many DSP cases were ending up there in the first place.
“We know from the research it can take six to eight months to get through the AAT process. In the meantime they might have been placed on an inappropriate benefit such as the Newstart Allowance which isn’t anywhere near what they’re entitled to,” he said.
This appeals spike follows the federal government revealing last October it was ditching plans to review the eligibility of 90,000 people on the DSP, after only a tiny fraction of recipients were found not to qualify for the payment.